Soon the leaves will be ablaze with their fall colors and will start falling, the nights are getting longer, and there is a bit of a chill in the air. Whether we like it or not, winter is approaching. After a busy summer, one might look toward the winter as an opportunity to slow down and enjoy being at home.
But before the winter, we have fall, and that is the perfect time to think about preparing your garden for the colder days ahead. You’re probably starting to notice that many of your plants are dying back and beginning to go dormant. Remember, there is plenty of life going on under the soil and if you follow these general tasks, you’ll give yourself and your garden a head start for next spring:
Weed/Trim – Fall is the perfect time to weed your gardens. Once plants have died back after the first hard frost, it’s easier to see the weeds that have been hiding all summer. A great time to do this is after a rain, which will soften the soil and make pulling the weeds easier. After you’ve cleaned up the weeds, you can put down a weed barrier such as Preen or even cornmeal to prevent any winter weeds. Remember not to put any diseased plants into your compost pile if you plan to reuse the compost as a soil amendment.
Trim plants that have become overgrown to help promote better airflow. Do not trim hollow-stemmed plants, such as delphinium or lupin, as they will collect water and die. Trim limbs from any trees that create too much shade for your gardens. Trimming interior branches on shrubs helps with better air circulation and disease prevention. Grasses can be cut back now as well.
Mulch – If you have any tender perennials that may need extra protection during winter, consider using leaves, pine needles and other organic mulching materials. If using leaves, it’s better to shred them first. Keep any mulch away from the trunks of trees and shrubs so as not to harm the root system. A good rule of thumb is to maintain mulch 3-5 inches away from the stems of young plants/shrubs and 8-12 inches away from mature tree trunks.
Water – Yes! You need to water your plants in the fall even when they’re going dormant. It’s important to keep your plants well hydrated especially if there’s a drought. Watering your plants in the fall gives them a much better chance of survival through our coldest months. In fact, plants and trees will benefit from a deep watering in December.
Amend – Fall is the best time to add soil amendments to garden beds. Compost is a wonderful way to refresh the soil and you will be “giving back” to your garden beds what you composted throughout the year. Before adding any other soil amendments, consider testing your soil first to know exactly what it needs. There are home soil test kits available or soil samples can be sent to your local Extension Office.
Here are a few other quick tips:
- As plants are preparing for dormancy, they need less fertilization. However, consider checking with your favorite nursery or online sources for more information as many experts now consider late fall an ideal time to fertilize as plants utilize nutrients differently depending on the time of year.
- In our area, protection from the wind is often more important than protection from the cold. There are various products on the market that help with this and protect plants from stressful situations.
- Collect any seeds you’d like to keep for planting next spring and make sure to keep some seeds on the plants for winter interest and to feed the birds.
- Keep a notebook on what worked this past growing season and what didn’t, plants you want to move or new ones to plant, and other ideas for next year.
Online bidding for our fall art auction opens October 13. We are excited to announce this year’s online art auction, Dogwood Days, which celebrates the beautiful Dogwood blossom, the state flower of North Carolina. The Lake Lure Artists and friends have donated 40 one-of-a-kind works of art that will be auctioned to support the programs of the Flowering Bridge. The dogwood blossom panels are currently on display throughout the gardens. Online bidding officially opens Friday, October 13, at 9:00 am and will be live through Sunday, October 22, at noon. Visit www.llfb.org for more information and to sign up to bid.
We’ve got lots of fun coming in October!
Create a wreath to take home with you at our Making Seasonal Wreaths free class October 24. Several LLFB volunteers will teach you how to make wreaths using natural materials and finished off with a beautiful bow. Class size is limited to 25 with pre-registration required, and there is a $10 fee for materials. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.